Well, I did it. I successfully completed Dry January. For anyone who doesn’t know, Dry January is the tradition of ditching booze for the entire month of January to reset for the New Year. For me, it’s about breaking bad habits and establishing a more healthy relationship with alcohol.
Prior to the holiday season (2017) I considered myself a slightly-more-than-moderate drinker. I wasn’t an insatiable monster, but once I started, I had impulse control issues. I suffer from anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, so I’ve always leaned into the “numbness” that drinking can facilitate—that became doubly true after the 2016 election. Everything felt completely pointless, and I didn’t know what I was doing with my life, so hey—why not enjoy some rosé as I waited for nuclear winter? It was not a great strategy.
After the election fog began to lift, the drinking didn’t cease—the luxurious feeling of a glass of wine (or three) after a long day became something I craved. My husband is a teetotaler, so it was even causing friction in my marriage (he was totally right, by the way, and everything is great now). I started learning a lot about wine, which I’m genuinely interested in, as something of a cover—an excuse to sample the world’s offerings (there’s actually a line in The Big Sick about this…it’s not just me!)
I love alcohol, and I was an early adopter (I started drinking when I was fifteen). I love creating new cocktails or splitting a bottle of wine with a friend. And 90% of the time, it’s not a problem. I’ve lived the majority of my adult life making reasonable decisions regarding my intake. But that 10%—those freshman-year-of-college nights I barely remember, the embarrassing conduct at a family party—has really stuck with me as a source of shame. Beyond that, I was gaining weight. When I turned 24, I weighed between 135-140. By 26, closer to 160. I’m 5’7″, so I’ve always gotten away with carrying a little extra weight, but watching your pant size skyrocket from a loose-fitting 4 to a tight 8 is rough. Even though the “new year, new me” thing is cliché, it finally felt like an appropriate time to take on the Dry January challenge. For the first time in my life, I’m in therapy, and I’m finally adjusting to #gradschoollife (I have a 3.74 GPA after taking 5 classes). I officially started on January 2nd, the day my holiday vacation ended (I had some farewell tequila the night before, don’t worry).
I definitely cheated during DJ. But I kept track of the “cheat days” (which I did allow myself) and I’m actually pretty proud of my restraint! The only drinks I had during January marked special occasions—family dinners, the first day of school—and I never had more than one on any of these occasions (of which there were maybe 4). Nine days into the challenge, I let myself have a Patron & soda and it knocked me on my ass! Tolerance goes away really, really quickly. Plus, I notice that I get headaches now when I have even a little bit of wine. There was only one day that I backslid, from stress, so I’m penalizing myself an extra week to account for it.
The goal of my DJ challenge was not to be perfect—it was to reset and get healthy. My lifestyle feels radically altered. Drinking rarely even occurs to me anymore. And hey, I lost three pounds. No complaints!
What I Learned:
All the noms. When you’re not wasting calories drinking, you get to eat more! Eating is my single favorite thing, so this was great news. During January, I went to town on all those healthy calories. So much hummus, dude.
#skingoals. Okay, so I can’t attribute this entirely to not drinking, but it’s a lot easier to remember to wash your face at night when you’re not tipsy! I’m prone to redness, which died down, and I always get one annoying hormonal pimple every month, which seemed less hateful this month. (I should note that I started actually adhering to a natural skincare routine in late December, so that definitely helped as well).
Sugarfix. I hate sweet things (salty snacks 4 life), so I always assumed that I had a diet low in sugar. WRONG. I kept a food diary during Dry January using an app called Lifesum, and as it turns out, I’m a sugar fiend! From sweetening my morning coffee to all the carbs and alcohol I was consuming, I’m pretty sure my blood was just KoolAid. Nixing alcohol cut the sugar intake in half, and made me more mindful about other nefarious sources of sugar.
What anxiety? Okay, that’s flippant, since I’m still an anxious wreck, but without the influence of alcohol, I definitely had fewer spiraling thoughts keeping me up at night.
Bookworm Status. Unintended side effect of quitting booze? I read more. I was more focused and had more brainpower, so I supplemented my eternal television binge-watching with a few books!
$$$$. Uh, did anyone else not do the math on how much drinking costs? I certainly did not, or at least, I convinced myself that drinks out with friends was in service of something greater—a social life! It was such a nice change of pace to save some extra cash and save for Oxford, where I’m studying abroad this summer for three weeks!
So, I’m not gonna give up booze entirely—is a life without champagne even worth living?—but I feel so invigorated by the fact that, at any moment, I can. Maybe I’ll keep the car running and do another month!